A Non-train Post

If I seem bit obsessive lately with the whole train thing, lately…. well, you don’t know me very well, do you? At any rate, I figured it was time to talk about something else, even if only for a post. So what’s been going on?

Well, there is a lot as of late. My son is back in scouts again… I think it’s his 5th year, but to be honest, I’ve had a hard time keeping track. I think it was 2 years in Cub Scouts, 2 years in Scouts, so this would be 5. I’m quite proud of that because it demonstrates a commitment I’m happy to see in that young man. He’s worked hard and I believe in him continuing to work hard in the future. Caidi is actually trying to join the program by being one of the first females in his troop. It’s been a bit rocky a start because so far they only have 3 solid members, and they need 5 to officially be commissioned as a girl’s troop.

Now I know there have been a lot of people complaining that they think the Girl Scouts is going to be forgotten, or they’re angry at the Boy Scout’s for doing this. I understand some of the arguments or frustration, and I do get that there are some who have concerns that the “inclusive nature” that is being established isn’t real, and there’s still sexism involved. Perhaps. It might be that at some of the higher levels. I don’t see that in my son’s and daughter’s troop. The other boys have been welcoming to my daughter and the other two female applicants, and a few have even asked how soon they’ll be officially forming the girl’s unit. Soon, we hope. That 5 girl minimum is to make sure they can get a continuous group going and get proper support.

So keep your fingers crossed that they can officially launch by January. And for the record, if you’re out there and have a daughter in Girl Scouts – the troop leader of BSA Troop 60 likes to point out regularly – you can be a member of both Girl Scouts and Scouts BSA and they don’t consider that a problem. This group thinks there are skills to learn in both, and they encourage that girls don’t give up one for the other. They cover some different topics, so staying in both just means more diverse experiences.

Other news: both kids are once again in orchestra or band this year. Caidi is doing her second year of violin, and Eli is in his 4th year with saxophone. It’s been great to see them develop here, too. Frankly, the more these kids do, the more I am excited to brag about how they break the preconceived notion that kids these days don’t do anything except play video games and sit on their phones.

And to make that point even more, Caidence is trying out for the swim team this year at her school. Whether she makes it or not, I don’t care – which is to say, I hope she makes it. But even if not, it’ll be a wonderful effort on her part, and I want her to keep working for things like that; I have faith in these kids doing so much, and the only two things that I feel upset about is that time is going by so fast… and that their biological father isn’t here to see what amazing children he helped bring into this world.

I wish he could. He is missing so much, and I don’t think there will ever be a day when I don’t wish he could know these kids (almost young adults now) the way I do.

Kelly is slowly but surely working on her next art piece, alternating with doing some ghost hunting. We went to Gettysburg, PA for our anniversary this year (it was a week after, but it still counts). I was more of her equipment support than a ghost hunter. She’s the one who’s better at this and tends to pick up on stuff more than I do. Hopefully in the near future she’ll be able to process some of the audio she captured and perhaps be sharing it on-line.

As for the art, when she has the energy and time, she’s been working on another great piece, and I am looking forward to her getting it completed before the holidays this year. I’m trying to push her gently to get at least a piece done every two months; she has too much talent to waste, but given how much she has to do with the kids, with her health and to manage this household, it’s understandable why she has to go at a slower pace.

Meanwhile, we all soldier on. For me, the hardest thing this year was my own health. Most of you probably know I have my own health challenges to deal with, but in spite of that (or maybe because of it) I am trying to make some big changes in my lifestyle. It hasn’t been easy, and there’s still a long way to go; but I have had a LOT of support from the family in doing it and I can’t express my thanks enough at how much they help.

At any rate, this is the update for the time being. There will probably be more to report soon, and I imagine you’ll keep seeing the train posts, but I also have a LOT of work I need to wrap up before year’s end with consulting. So check back regularly to see what’s happening.

Working on Health

My wife decided on a fantastic gift for me for our anniversary. This isn’t really a new thing; she always does fantastic things for me when it comes to gifts. I never got something from her that wasn’t absolutely fantastic.

This year was no exception; and in fact, it may be one of the best gifts I’ve received, other than her hand in marriage. Seriously, that’s still the best.

But for a fantastic runner-up, she bought me a Fitbit Versa 2. If you’re not familiar with this device (I was only moderately familiar with the Fitbit), it’s a combination of a smart watch, pedometer, heart-monitor and much more. I’d known people with them, but as a person who is not much in the habit of wearing watches, I didn’t really put too much into looking into them as I often couldn’t remember to put one on most mornings over the last 5 years.

That’s a horrible thing, to be honest, because my wife got me another smart watch and I love it, but I was so out of the habit that it was hard for me to remember to wear it. I do still use it when I can, but again, my mind being what it is (not good), I miss the opportunity.

That’s changed because of this snazzy little gizmo. I have worn this device daily since getting it, with the sole exception of a day I was sick and really didn’t leave my bed to begin with.

Any even that’s a change, because I have started wearing this to bed. It tracks sleep patterns pretty well, and as a person with sleep apnea and psycho-physiological insomnia, a good night’s sleep is a rare occurrence. With all of that said, this is another great feature to the present I got.

Combined with the fact that this device is even water-proof, my wife has proven once again just how wise she is – in addition to being hot. So at any rate, I just needed to put this out here; if you or someone you know is in need of assistance to get healthy, check these out. At $199, they might sound steep, but I’m telling you that is a price most definitely worth while. I intend to get my wife one soon so we can start tracking our health progress and improvements together.

Thanks, baby!

If you need info, you can visit the Fitbit Versa 2 page here.

A Portrait of Dexter

I’ve known my wife since my 3rd year of college. At the time, she was studying for an Arts Administration degree, a Bachelor’s from SUNY Fredonia. It’s a degree that combines fine arts skills and knowledge with business skills so that a person is well versed on the fundamentals of handling administration of art related facilities; museums, galleries, and businesses that deal with art as a primary product or service.

It’s a tough field to build a career in, because sadly, these days, there’s not the appreciation given to art that existed in other times. It’s not to say people are uncultured, but the appreciation to really allow for the skilled artist isn’t strong enough for many people to build a career on, even if they have the talent that should allow for it. And likewise, the number of gallery and museum jobs aren’t that diverse. Realistically, you almost need to have a Master’s degree.

Fortunately, my wife had the business skills that made her a candidate for some varied jobs in other industries. Combined with the mind she has, she has pursued a career path in the medical industry, and she’s done quite well, working her way up. All this in spite of any form of medical knowledge from college.

It started with working for Quest Diagnostics for about 5 years, and has since lead her to a higher position as a clerical staff member at a hospital in Buffalo, NY. She makes me very proud with what she does – it’s not a position that people always respect, but the simple fact is, if she does wrong, people can be hurt by it, as much as if a doctor screws up.

But sadly, that means that she didn’t get to build the career she really wanted; to be an artist. It’s something I want to change for her, even just a little. Because frankly, she has a talent that so many people simply do not have. She brings life to beautiful art pieces, and gives soul to the subjects of those pieces. Maybe it can’t be a full-time career for now, but I would love to see her transform her talent into something that has serious opportunities, at least as a side-job in the near-term.

That leads me to Dexter. One of our two Siberian Huskies. The big, bad-ass, strong… baby. No, really, he is bigger than usual, he’s a pretty tough dog when he wants to be, he’s very strong, even an effort for me to control sometimes because of his musculature. He’s also the biggest baby – thinks he’s still a puppy, scared out of his mind of loud noises like fireworks, and he is so much a momma’s boy.

But for all that, he is also a beautiful animal, and when he has the chance to run, or is out for a walk, he does so with his head high, his tail wagging, and an excitement that is nearly unparalleled. He’s an awesome dog, if somewhat mischievous. And he was the subject of my wife’s latest art piece. It was a piece that took her some time. Our move interrupted her work for quite a while, as it took time to find all of the necessary stuff for her to resume her work, and other health and personal issues got in the way for some time.

In the end, though, Kelly finally managed to get this piece done, and it is absolutely gorgeous, as is all of her work. I am hoping this will remind her that her skills and unique talents are absolutely breath-taking, and if she really wants to do some more with this work, I support it. I hope you will, too. If you enjoy her work, you can reach out to me and ask to see more. She is working towards setting up a site for her own portfolio, and I know she’d be happy to do the work for contracts – she has the talent, and doing this truly gives her happiness and a good feeling.

But for now, cast your gaze on the beauty of this image. I’ll try to get a higher resolution version soon, but this was all I had for the moment.

Working on My Health

So I have to admit some of what’s been going on lately has been me working on a VERY personal battle to repair my health. For the past 20 years, basically since starting into I.T., I have been working hard to build up my knowledge, build up a reputation, and be in a position to provide reasonably well for the future. Of course, you know, 10 years ago, I proposed to my wife and a year later we were married.

And a combination of bad luck, a few mistakes on my part, and just a lot of challenges to surpass came up and made it a bigger challenge to make sure things stayed running. My wife and I worked our behinds off to get through all that, but in the process, 20 years of stress, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem lead me to turn to my one and only serious vice – soft drinks.

See, I don’t drink. It’s nothing against alcohol, I just never got into it. I don’t smoke. I did very briefly and quit; it was stupid, it was expensive (which was even more stupid) and it didn’t really appeal to me beyond the social instances. I don’t do drugs – I’m messed up in the head enough already (I’m in I.T. – I must be messed up in the head).

It’s true that in college I ate more than I should have; at first, anyway. That leveled out after two years and the fact that I had to walk all over meant that I lost a fair amount of weight, and balanced out. That is, until after college. The combination of driving to work, being stressed at work, working two or more jobs… all of it lead me to turn to the one and only thing that kept me going. Generally it was some variety of Pepsi or Dr. Pepper.

And that’s lead to where I have landed myself in need of serious changes to my lifestyle, while there’s still time to do something to fix it. So the past three weeks has lead to a few lifestyle changes. Key among them? I had one soft drink two weeks ago. I hadn’t had one for 5 days before that. As of this point, that’s almost 3 weeks of no soft drinks. The only thing I have had in all this time is water. Water, with an occasional splash of life juice (from one of those cooking squeeze bottles) or perhaps an actual lime (when I had the time to cut one up for my drink).

For what little I ate, I cut out candies, ice cream or any other sort of sugar desserts. Now I snack on fresh fruit, the occasional cheese cubes or peanuts, and that’s it.

I was told to cut down on fried foods. This was kind of funny, because ever since we got an air-fryer last year, I haven’t really been able to stomach fried foods. Have more salads? I love salads, especially the type with grilled chicken on them.

Cut down on fatty and starchy foods in general – so I eat less pasta now (in fact, I haven’t had any in a few weeks), I don’t really eat anything with potatoes. The only thing that is a challenge here sometimes is bread. But I’ve been moderating that and looking for lunches (the problem meal) that I can make that don’t require having a sandwich with bread.

Any so here I am. I’ve lost about 30 lbs so far since the start of the year, with 5+ lbs in the past week. My stomach is starting to flatten out. And I have been mentally feeling somewhat better. My wife was pretty sure for years that the heavy sugars was contributing to lousy moods and making me unbearable, at times.

She was definitely right about that. In the past 3 weeks I’ve found my mood progressively getting better, and the family feels like I’m easier to deal with things. I should have listened to her about this years ago, but I’m a moron sometimes. Thanks, honey, for putting up with that and not putting a pillow over my face during the nights.

Finally, I am exercising. Nothing heavy yet. I am doing a lot of walking, time on the treadmill, at the indoor track at work, and now with the dogs more.

My goal? Get my health back in reasonable shape, get down to at least 260 lbs (that’s my initial goal) and get myself to the point where I can maybe in the future enjoy something like the occasional sonic float or shake (like once every few months) without letting it impact my health. That last part may not happen, but if not, at least I can get my weight back down and maybe be around for some time to come.